Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Steak au Poivre and the Cookie Dough Incident

Last night after work, I went to this new gym that I'm trying to get a job instructing at...I love that they're so much more effective at teaching, but man...their spin classes leave me wobbly every time.  Blech.

In any case, that's the precursor to the first picture. 

 I have a thing for cookie dough...don't judge.  Desperate times call for desperate blood sugar was so low driving home last night that I literally had to eat this on my way home or I would have DIED.  Seriously folks, it was an emergency. 
 Moving on.  Steak au poivre.  Love this stuff.  So simple to make, so quick, so yummy.  I used Angus shoulder steaks I think...ones marked for braising.  They were delish. 
 Boiling down the heavy cream sauce. Yum yum yum.  I used cheap white box wine instead of cognac, mostly because we wouldn't have drunk the cognac.
 I wanted to make carrots, but they would have taken an hour to make the way I like them (baked), so we just had mashed sweet potatoes and fococcia.  Which is not a word apparently. 

In any case, the steak was wonderful.  This has to be the simplest, quickest French recipe out there. 

Coming up tonight, in addition to dinner, I've decided to attempt making fudge for the neighbors who snow blowed our driveway. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Week #11: France

It's here!  The week that inspired Julia Child, who inspired Julie Powell, who inspired a movie producer, who inspired me!  Hooray!

First glance through some of the more well-known recipes elicited a response of "wait, go through 10 steps and then cook for another 3 HOURS??"  I mean, seriously, do French people (and Julie Powell) not work??  I can't wait until 9 PM or later to eat, I turn into the Hulk long before then!

So to that end, the dishes I've picked (below) are more of the "relatively quick but still fairly French" variety. One is long, and I might attempt that on Saturday, depending on how Friday night goes.  Don't get your hopes up - my bridesman is coming to new years.

French cuisine is renowned for being one of the finest in the world.[303][304][305][306][307][308][309] French cuisine is extremely diverse and has exerted a major influence on other western cuisines.[310] According to the regions, traditional recipes are differents, the North of the country prefers to use butter as the preferred fat for cooking, whereas olive oil is more commonly used in the South.[311]
Moreover, each region of France has iconic traditional specialities : Cassoulet in the Southwest, Choucroute in Alsace, Quiche in the Lorraine region, Beef bourguignon in the Bourgogne, proven├žal Tapenade, etc. France's most renowned products are wines,[312] including Champagne, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, and Beaujolais as well as a large variety of different cheeses, such as Camembert, Roquefort and Brie. There are more than 400 different varieties.[313][314]
French cuisine is also regarded as a key element of the quality of life and the attractiveness of France.[291] Michelin guide(a French publication) awarded 620 stars to French restaurants, more than any other country in the world (Italy came second with 255 stars).[315]

That right there is literally all there is in the Cuisine section of the wikipedia article for France.  I feel like that's a little underwhelming, in all honesty. I expected way more than "French food is really really good. And they have cheese.  And wine."  Seriously, wikipedia...kind of a letdown. 


Bear in mind that all of these are meat dishes, so the rest of the meals will consist of veggies and some kind of starch to balance it out.  I'm trying, Mom, I really am.  Tonight, I think we're going for Steak au Poivre.  I've made it before, it's quick and simple, and I have Spin/Pilates back to back beatdown again tonight, so that's what I need.  

Christmas Rundown

Kini got a bone.
She loved it.
Christmas morning, I made monkey bread.
Yum yum yum.
Omg yum (Sarah, that's for you!)
Seriously.  Yum.
I want to lick my computer right now, so yum.
Breakfast table.
Then there was dinner.  Which was mostly pies.
And other desserts.
Omg so many desserts.
So, so many.
Chocolate kiddie, just for me.
Banana cream pie.
My plate at dinner.
So now it's back to normal...ish...for like 3 days.  It's French week (I haven't forgotten) and I'm going to do the best I can to make that into something worth writing about.  Right now I'm in a sushi coma though, so I'm gonna nap under my desk and dream of fish. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Of Course There Are No Pictures

Last night Nick made dinner for me so I could go beat myself up at the gym.  He opted for a tex-mex dish...the Chicken Tamale Casserole.  Yum.  Of course I scarfed it down so fast I never got any pictures of his hard work, but he even boiled the chicken to put on top!  I usually just grab the precooked stuff.  In any case, that's what we had last night.  Sorry no pics.  Not sure what to night will be since I need to finish up some Christmas stuff and take Kini to the vet (again).  Suggestions?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oven Fried Chicken

Oven fried chicken is one of those dishes that we (or at least I) always begged my mom to make when we were kids.  It's so yummy and crunchy, and good for you!  While I'm not sure it's my favorite chicken (it just dawned on me that I haven't had Honey Chicken in AGES), it's still pretty stinkin' good.  So, instead of southern fried chicken, I made us a relatively healthy meal last night. 

The chicken is dirt easy...wash the chicken, dip it in milk, then roll it around in Italian breadcrumbs.  Mom's recipe includes some other spices (curry in particular), but I generally get lazy and just use the crumbs.  Bake at 375* for 50 minutes and voila!  Perfect chicken, no guilt!  The rest of the meal was boxed mashed sweet potatoes (a weakness) and baked baby carrots.  So yummy! 

We had to put Kini in her kennel eventually, she was begging so much!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Week #10: Southern United States

Wowee, where did that week go?  You didn't miss anything interesting...we mostly just threw stuff together from the fridge, and none of it was particularly blog-worthy.

In any case, Malaysia will get bumped to the end of the list and this week we'll keep going with Southern America!  

According to Wikipedia, "Modern definition The states in dark red are almost always included in modern day definitions of the South, while those in medium red are usually included. Some sources classify Maryland and Missouri as Southern, with Delaware only rarely grouped within the region. West Virginia is often considered Southern, because it was once part of Virginia."

Unfortunately, this wiki article doesn't have anything about the cuisine, so I'm going to have to go from both stereotypes and my own upbringing for inspiration.  Maybe Southern Living magazine too.  It promises to be a caloric horror show this week, so I'll be working out every night as well.  

Oops, should've Googled before I typed.  Southern food has its own wiki page

The most notable influences come from British, Scottish, Irish, French, Native American, African American, and to a lesser extent, Spanish cuisines. Soul food, Creole, Cajun, Lowcountry, and Floribbean are examples of Southern cuisine. In recent history, elements of Southern cuisine have spread north, having an effect on the development of other types of American cuisine.
Many items such as squash, tomatoes, corn (and its derivatives, including grits), as well as the practice of deep pit barbecuing were inherited from the southeastern American Indian tribes such as the Caddo, Choctaw, and Seminole. Many foods associated with sugar, flour, milk, eggs (many kinds of baking or dairy products such as breads and cheeses) are more associated with Europe. The South's propensity for a full breakfast (as opposed to a Continental one with a simple bread item and drink) is derived from the British fry up, although it was altered substantially. Much of Cajun or Creole cuisine is based on France, and on Spain to a lesser extent. Floribbean is more Spanish-based with obvious Caribbean influences, while Tex-Mex has considerable Mexican and native tribes touches.

Umm...Floribbean??  Huh.  And I guess I never really thought about where BBQ came from, but it would make sense that it's a Native American thing. 

"A traditional Southern meal is pan-fried chicken, field peas, greens, mashed potatoes, cornbread, sweet tea and a dessert that could be a pie (sweet potato, chess, pecan and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry or mixed berry are traditional cobblers)."

I'm not sure I *could* eat all that in one meal if I tried! No wonder obesity is so much worse in the south!  Yikes!

"It is not uncommon for a traditional southern meal to consist of only vegetables with no meat dish at all, although meat or meat products are often used in the cooking process. "Beans and Greens," which consists of either white or brown beans alongside a "mess" of greens has always been popular in most parts of the South. Turnip greens are generally prepared mixed with diced turnips and a piece of fatback. It is often said that Southerners tend to cook down their vegetables a little longer and/or use more seasoning than other Americans, but it often depends on the cook."

Alrighty then.

I think I'm going to try to make this as healthy a week as possible, if possible.

We started out last night with red beans & rice, my family's recipe (no big secret - beans, onion, kielbasa) using chicken kielbasa. I made cornbread too.  Yum.

We'll also be making...

Fried Chicken - with mashed potatoes and green beans, most likely. I may replace this with oven fried, we'll see.
BBQ Ribs  - This one may not happen.  It takes over an hour to make, and I'm not sure if any given night this week will have that kind of time.  We'll see, maybe tomorrow night.
Jambalaya - DUH.  This is my family's recipe, and as soon as I find it I'll scan it and post a link.  I can't wait.  DON'T LIFT THE POT LID.
Chicken and Dumplings - Nick talks about this from his childhood, so I'll see if I can do it justice.  I'm not terribly excited about trying dumplings again, but for him...I'll do what I can.  :-)

So that's that!  Anyone joining me this week?  It's an easy week!  C'mon! See other menu plans here!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Pizza

 Not a terribly interesting week around here, but it's been yummy anyway.  Last night, we had Christmas Pizza - the colors were Christmasy, and it was a compromise between pesto (I love it, Nick hates it) and marinara (Nick likes it, I'll pass). It even had a little coal (black olives) and snow flurries (cheese)!
Pre cheese.  Didn't get pictures after this because we ate it so quickly.  YUM.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Delayed Gratification

The thing about parties is, invariably you end up with massive amounts of leftovers.  If you do it right.  We did it right.  Not only do we have about 2 cases of beer on the porch, and half a dozen bottles of what looks like wine but might be lambec, but we have extra food that simply didn't need to get made for Saturday night, out the wazoo.  I may have overplanned a bit.  Oops. 

So, rather than waste all the fresh goodies that are in the fridge, I'm going to spend the next few days making leftovers (unfortunately, that may mean a lot of pizza...we have a lot of dough left over) and will either get to Malaysia at the end of the week or bump it to the end of the rotation and hope for better luck in October.  In retrospect, I should have made this week Southern American week, since that's where most of the leftovers are from (thank you, cajun heritage!) anyway.  Alas, poor foresight leads to leftovers once again.  That said, I have high hopes for the pizza.  When I went to Brazil a few years ago, we had this AMAZING mango pizza at some little place on Fernando de Noronha.  Trust me, you want to click that link.  I hope to God I can get back there someday.  It was, hands down, the most idyllically memorable part of that spite of the nasty, second-degree sunburn (over 109 mosquito bites, courtesy of the Amazon and my travel buddy's forgetfulness) I suffered, it was still absolutely incredible.  I'll be looking for some way to reproduce that pizza this week.

Anyway, until we eat our way out of this mountain of leftovers, things won't be so foreign. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

This is the last (cheese) straw!

Let me start this post with the appropriate tone.  This was my mood last night:
This was Kini's:
And this was Grisgris'.  Shelby was her usual reclusive self.
Last night was the fifth night in a row that I've cooked this week.  Usually by Wednesday I manage to convince Nick that we really want to go out for dinner, and he usually obliges.  This week, no such luck.  It was mostly seafood, so he wanted to "get it out of the way" as quickly as possible.  Harumph.  Last night we had the fish soup.  I thought it was delish.  I also like fish.  I understand that's an acquired taste (thanks, Mom and Dad!), so this may not be for everyone...that said, Nick said, "As far as fish soups go, this one was good.  But it was still fish soup."
Cooking up the rice, onions, and garlic.
I don't think these are mung beans, but they're green and they were in the Asian food section, so I used them anyway.
Cod and shrimp, ready to go.
Boiling everything.
YUM!  I had about two bowls of it.  Nick had about 2 bites. 
Shelby got the rest.  She SCARFED this down.  I take that as a compliment.
After dinner, there was a little dancing. You can tell Kini enjoys this by the way she recoils when you pick her up. 
Then, down to business.  First, play with the camera a bit.
This is the shredder I used to shred that entire lb of cheese.
Did you know dogs LOVE cheese?  Kini does.  Every time I looked up, she'd inched closer.  Then she'd be on my foot.  Then I'd stomp and kick her out and she'd go to her mat and the process would start over.  In the end, I gave her a small piece, but made her work for it.  Silly dog.
It took a while, but eventually this is how it looked according to my mom's recipe. 
I tried to use an icing bag, but this is all that came out.  Two tiny cheese turds. 
I added more water (about a cup actually) and it eventually moistened up a bit, but by that time it was too late...I broke the icing bag.  So I mashed it all out on a pan and cut it with a pizza cutter. 
Not exactly my gramma's cheese straws, but they worked, more or less. They're definitely squishier than hers. 
Nick wanted to prove that he could make popcorn all by himself, and this was the result.  He called it "Still Life Popcorn Maker".  It tasted just fine.
This morning, Nick woke up a few minutes before I did and had these cooking, cruelly, while I was on the treadmill.  Talk about motivation, huh?  He's all mine, ladies, sorry.  :-D

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When You Say "Grill" You Really Mean "Broil", Right?

...because it is just too d@mn cold out to be firing up the grill, I'm sorry.  Add to that the fact that firing up the broiler makes the house warmer inside, well...sorry grill, but it's a losing battle. 

Instead of grilling the eggplant and scallops like last night's recipe requested, I broiled them.  Less smokey taste, more feeling in my fingers and toes.  It wasn't bad.  It's funny, everything this week has been combinations of thing that aren't foreign (excepting maybe the fish sauce), they're just combined in new ways.  For example, I never would have thought to marinade scallops in soy sauce and garlic.  Yum! 

Broiled veggies.  The eggplant was better than expected, but still...eggplanty.
Sauteed green onions.
Fried up some leftover rice from the night before, added a little soy sauce and fish sauce for flavor.
Broiled scallops and onions.  Yum.
The presentation.  Overall, it was good.  Not a favorite, but we didn't need to order pizza either.  :-)  I'm sure Nick will be glad when this week is more fish recipe for tonight, then it's his turn to provide food!  :-)